Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: New England
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Block Island Adventure
I had trouble deciding if I should reply to your post or not. Last Friday we sailed to Block Island from Jamestown, RI and had quite the experience. I do not want to scare you into not going but due to the fact you stated you were new to sailing, I decided to share our recent Block Island experience.
We had read many different stories about the difficulties of anchoring at Block Island and also the squalls that often hit the island. Due to these stories, we took off on a Friday so that we would comfortably get a town mooring or dock at Payne’s Marina. We left Jamestown about 12:00 PM and arrived at BI about 4:30 PM. The sail was rough but pretty uneventful. The Salt Pond area was filled with of all kinds of boats. There were family’s happily playing on the surrounding beaches. The sun was shining and all was well. We were disappointed to see that all ninety town moorings were already taken and when I called Payne’s he said he could try to fit us in but we would have to be rafted to another boat and he just didn’t make it sound very inviting. We looked at all the boats anchored and thought, hey how bad can it be. We motored our Ericson 38 over to the anchorage area. Due to the fact I am terrified to operate our boat in small areas, I do the dropping and lifting of the anchor. The first three times we tried to anchor we used the Danforth anchor. During the third drop a nice gentleman dinghy’d over and told my husband that the Danforth would never work and we need to switch. So we switched to the CQR anchor, which happened to be buried under the v-berth and had sails on top of that. So as my husband/captain continued to keep the boat safe, I ran below to get the new anchor, which I pushed up and through the forward hatch. The funny part, I believe the Danforth was actually set because I could barely bring it up and it was covered with mud and large clams. But the decision had been made to switch so I followed captain’s orders. We attempted to anchor three times with the much heavier anchor with no luck. I happened to look up between breaths, sweat and close to tears and to my horror the distant skies were not dark but black. The winds were starting to pick up in a way that I had never seen before. The winds were soon 45 knots and we began to see how many boats were poorly anchored. Sailboat and motorboats alike began crashing into each other. You could hear people reporting to the harbor master that unmanned boats were causing damage to other boats and that boats were loose with no one onboard. It was complete chaos and if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would have never believed it. Behind us were three large motor boats whose anchor lines were now tangled. Someone had to dingy to the anchor lines and pull on the anchors onto the dinghy and detangle it that way. Many of these boats didn’t have owners on them. I would assume most of them were enjoying the beach because fifteen minutes previously, it was a beautiful day. The people who worked at the boat yard were responding amazingly calm. I was told this is due to the fact this is so common in Block Island.
The weather returned to calm and sunny within twenty minutes. I however was physically and mentally spent. We tried to get a mooring or a dock and it was impossible. At 7:30pm we motored over to a private mooring and picked up an empty mooring that belong to the BIYC. I was prepared to pay any fee but no one came for money or to throw us off. First thing in the morning we found an empty town mooring and enjoyed the rest of our stay in Block Island. It is a beautiful island and is worth a visit. I however would never arrive on a weekend day or late afternoon on a Friday. We spoke to fellow boaters about what had taken place and of course they said we should have stayed with the Danforth but they also said that anchorage difficulties and squalls were a common occurrence on Block Islands. The sail back was beautiful and I will return someday...…..maybe.